Clients led into trouble with no idea of what happened

Mrs Stevenson (not her real name) had an accident in her ice cream van. Soon after, a solicitor contact her to say they could deal with the matter on a no win no fee basis and get her compensation for her injury. She sustained a back injury with ongoing problems. The other side admitted liability and took her van away to be repaired at their expense.

This client contacted us 5 years after the date of the accident to say the solicitor had lost her case and she had been issued with a £90,000 bill of costs from the other side’s solicitors and that she did not understand. We got her to read some paperwork to us and realised the case had been adjudicated by the Financial Ombudsman Service, which seemed strange as they only deal with large organisations.

We soon found out that the case was not in relation to her accident but was against an insurer who provides insurance to protect clients against the other side’s costs when a case fails. We asked Mrs Stevenson to contact her former solicitor to ask for the original case file; they said they won’t release it as Mrs Stevenson owes them money. A week later Mrs Stevenson received a bill for £50,000, possibly to prevent her obtaining the file. So we have a client who had a genuine accident with liability admitted, who was contacted by a solicitor to help, and 5 years later she owes £140,000 and could lose her house.

We are currently still dealing with this case and have asked the ombudsman to provide us with details of the case they adjudicated and to order the solicitor to release the original case file for it to be reviewed. It is imperative the ombudsman acts quickly, which they are not as yet doing.